Q: Where did the term honkytonk come from?
K.H., Dallas, Texas
A: Admore, Oklahoma. That's probably not the answer you're looking for, but word historians don't know why the term honkytonk was first applied to a "place of low amusement," as Ramon Adams defines it in Western Words.
The first known reference was in the Feb. 24, 1894, Daily Ardmorite. A newspaper ad promoted a dance hall with gambling and burlesque shows, calling the place a "honk-o-donk."
The century-old word stuck, though no explanation of its birth has been found. Honkytonk is considered a "reduplication," a new word formed by repeating elements of an existing word.
Other reduplications are equally nonsensicial, such as boogie-woogie, hocus-pocus, razzle-dazzle and fancy-shmancy.